Last year I was able to review the MSI 890FXA-GD70 and I came away pretty happy with the board. It was not quite at the level of the Crosshair IV Formula, but it was well within spitting distance. It had a lot of unique features for the time, and it was a favorite of many users due to its combination of price, performance, and outstanding bundle. Expectations for the 990FXA-GD80 were high, to say the least.
Fret not, a new camera is on the way. Expect far better photography soon!
The board itself mimics the overall layout of the older GD70 board, but it has a few new twists. MSI redesigned the VRMs supplying the CPU, and it is now a DrMOS 8+2 phase array instead of the older 4+1 setup of the GD70. In the last generation of products having a 4+1 setup was not a bad thing, especially when using a DrMOS setup. DrMOS is an integrated driver IC plus top and bottom mosfets in one chip package. These are more expensive than a traditional, non-integrated setup, but has the advantages of being able to handle higher currents and being matched very well electrically. This updated unit now matches, and perhaps exceeds, that of other offerings.
MSI populates the board with “Military Class II” components, which are essentially tested and rated for higher temperatures and power loads than standard units. This includes the previously mentioned tantalum “Hi-C” caps powering the CPU. These have a lifespan of around 10 years at 125C, so basically the rest of the board will fail before these caps do.
Now that’s what I call a spread. Can I say that on the internet?
The coolers for the VRMs and northbridge are attached via a heatpipe. There is some controversy that the VRMs will heat up the northbridge, but considering that the VRMs run pretty cool anyway this is essentially a non-issue. These are not ceramic coated, and they do not feature any fans or other cooling mechanisms. Temperatures never became all that great in the first place, and they remained warm to the touch even under load.
The board of course has the 990FX and SB950 chips. These are then supplemented by a pair of NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 controllers. One powers the back panel ports, while the other supports the rotated internal header. Gig-E uses the Realtek 8111 controller, while the ALC-892 handles the sound. Unlike Asus, MSI is bundling a “THX Studio” sound layer which improves the quality and functionality of the sound codec. Opinions will vary on the usefulness of the software, but it is a nice extra to have. Unlike the Asus board, MSI only has one secondary JMicron SATA-3G controller, and that handles the e-SATA connectivity. It must be said, no matter which board has them, the JMicron controllers are pretty awful when it comes to performance.
Note the judicious placement of the slots. Even in SLI or Crossfire and dual slot cooling, both the PCI and PCI-E 1X slots are ready to be populated. Unless you are using a quad slot cooler…
An LED numerical indicator is included so users can diagnose BIOS or startup issues. Once the board is up and running, the LED shows the current temperature of the CPU. This is a handy little thing, and one that is appreciated on a couple different levels. MSI also has LED lights around the board which report on how many VRM phases are active.
At the bottom of the board are three buttons. Unlike the GD70 with its touch sensitive pads, MSI is going back with the physical buttons. There are only three, and MSI has gotten rid of the dial overclocking knob, which when activated increased the base clock speed of the board. OC Genie has evolved to OC Genie II, and MSI claims that it will overclock the board in around one second. Pushing the OC Genie button and then booting up the machine will theoretically find the maximum stable overclock of the processor and memory. Unfortunately, it does not quite work that way.
Pretty good writeup, the “I’m
Pretty good writeup, the “I’m bored” comments were kind of unwanted, but I wanted to ask something and I am not sure if you noticed it or I missed it when reading.
The MSI board allows the PCI-E x1 slot to be used in addition to dual gpu setups, while the ASUS board covers the PCI-E x1 slot no matter what.
You could use the extra x16 slots if need be, but wouldn’t that cut down the PCI-E x16/x16 bandwidth?
That alone sways what board to get for me, despite the asus board being better. I need a PCI-E x1 slot for wireless, here’s to hoping MSI fixes the bios and other issues quickly.
EDIT: The asus board only has 6 slots, which is kind of odd.
Generally speaking, and you
Generally speaking, and you would have to consult the individual manufactures user manual for the specifics. But particularly on the older (same?) 890FX boards, specifically the MSI890FXA, there are only two true electrically x16 slots.
When running in a x16/x16 configuration, one of the slots is disabled (if memory serves it was the lower most slot), and the middle “x16 size” slot, which is physically only x8 electrically, would only being allowed x4 bandwidth.
Now, if you populate the lower most “disabled” slot (x8 electrically), it will be given x8 bandwidth, and the above true x16 slot would be reduced to a x8 as well, as the lanes on those slots are split. Which is why in a true x16/x16 configuration, it is effectively disabled.
So it is completely dependent on how the manufactures split the lanes on the board, and what slots share those lanes when split. And MOST (not all) manufactures usually give a comprehensive slot population chart to explain how it will work. But on average with a x16/x16 configuration, there will always be one remaining x4 electrically, x16 physically slot.
Usage of the slots and add in
Usage of the slots and add in cards is obviously going to differ by individual. The MSI board does give slightly more flexibility in that you can use both the PCI slot and 1x PCI-E slot even when in Crossfire or SLI. So yeah, their layout is better overall than the Asus board. Then again the DIMM slots on the MSI board are physically closer to the socket by a decent amount, which is going to cause headaches for some folks.
But in terms of a better overall board in testing, Asus has the edge here.
Agreed, definitely wooped
Agreed, definitely wooped them. Hopefully september when the fx is out (rumor) and by then the MSI big bang conquerer/AMD board is out, with something that isn’t this bad.
Unless you must have a 1x
Unless you must have a 1x PCI-E slot I see no reason to buy the MSI board over the Asus one unless there is a large discrepancy in price.
I have nothing against MSI, heck my backup PC uses a P55-GD65 and a MSI 4870×2 which I’m using to type this message, but I was sorely disappointed by the 990FXA-GD80 given the stellar performance of the 890FXA-GD65.
I need one for wireless, so
I need one for wireless, so yes, I need one. I am working on trying a powerline setup, but the power in my house isn’t the best.
I just don’t get why they leave off a slot. The heatsink blocks it, but why not go up with the heatsink, not like anything is going right there.
FYI, MSI Bought(?)
FYI, MSI Bought(?) Afterburner’s from guru3d’s RivaTuner. A good utility like that, working for all boards would be welcome.
Hmm I purchased this board
Hmm I purchased this board and really am not a fan of the BIOS but reading MSI forums it looks like this should be resolved relatively soon.
Overall, the board is working solid and while it may not be perfect, it is not “bad” to the point of not wanting to own one.
I think a lot of the issues
I think a lot of the issues with the board are related to the BIOS in one way or another. ClickBIOS II is supposed to be a major upgrade, and should feel a whole lot faster than the current one. I would imagine that overclocking the HTT bus will also show improvements, as well as the random network issues that have been reported for this board by a handful of reviewers.
Glad you are having a good experience with your board though. You are right, it is far from being a bad board, but it just didn’t quite match the level of its predecessors and competition.
I bought the Sabertooth last
I bought the Sabertooth last week.
But I have a problem with AI Suite II. It won’t start, generating an APPCRASH on my Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 (x64).
I tried to uninstall it, but it leaves a bunch of entries in registry and two related services still running…
Did you run the installer
Did you run the installer from the CD, or download it from the Asus website? I have found that often it is preferable to download that version, as sometimes the ones on the CD are more than a little old and could have poor support with new products. This is something of an issue with most motherboard manufacturers.